The great illusionist and escape artist Harry Houdini died on October 31, 1926 at the age of 52. Famously, he told his wife, Bess, that he would attempt to contact her from “the other side,” and for a decade after his death, she marked the anniversary with a Halloween séance. In 1936 Bess gave up trying to get in touch.
In the 1940s, Sidney Radner picked up the torch eventually christening the yearly event The Official Houdini Séance™, and in 2010 Sid came to StoryCorps to talks about the tradition.
Sid, 91, was a protégé of Houdini’s brother Hardeen, and was once the owner of one of the world’s largest collections of Harry Houdini memorabilia. A few weeks after the story aired on NPR Sid invited producer Jasmyn Belcher Morris to participate in that year’s event (pictured below). Click here to read more about Jasmyn’s attempt to contact Houdini. It turned out to be his last. Sid died in 2011, more than 70 years after taking over the tradition. Click here to read his New York Times obituary.
Originally aired October 29, 2010, on NPR’s Morning Edition.